FUKUROI CITY, Japan (Reuters) - South Africa captain Siya Kolisi says team mate Eben Etzebeth is focussed solely on Friday’s crunch Rugby World Cup Pool B clash with Italy despite allegations of racial and physical abuse levelled at the giant lock.
Etzebeth will likely be the subject of a civil case brought by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) after an alleged incident outside a bar on Aug. 25, before the Springboks left for Japan, but remains part of the squad and will line-up against Italy.
Etzebeth has denied any wrong-doing, but it is the last thing the Boks need ahead of a match they must win or face an embarrassing early exit from a tournament where they have been among the favourites.
“I don’t know what is happening, the management is dealing with it, but from our side we are just here to play and I know Eben is playing (on Friday). We haven’t had any distraction this week,” Kolisi told reporters on Thursday.
“We are just preparing for the game, that is all we have been talking about. We have got an important match this week, if we slip up we are out the competition, so that is all we are focussing on.”
Kolisi adds the Boks will not deviate much from their plans in the 23-13 loss to New Zealand in their competition opener, but what was lacking against the All Blacks was clinical execution.
“We need to execute better with our plan, we had a great plan for the game and did not execute it at all. We made mistakes from which they scored two tries.
“It was not a great result, but we can’t smash ourselves up about it. Italy are a great side and they beat us in the past. In a way we are fortunate that we get to play a ‘knockout’ game earlier than everybody else and that is what we see this game as.”
The loose-trio tussle is being billed as a key battleground with Kolisi partnered by Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen. They are up against Italian veteran Sergio Parisse, Jake Polledri and South African-born Braam Steyn.
“We have to make sure we win turnovers, stay in our system and try to be as effective as we can,” the Bok skipper said. “Their pack is very strong, hence that is why we have virtually a whole pack on the bench.”
Kolisi believes the team’s preparation has been thorough enough and there will not be much for him to tell the players in the changeroom before the game.
“It’s quite clear what we need to do. It’s been a great week and each player knows what’s needed of him. We have all worked so hard to get to the World Cup.”
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty